Delight Customers With Your Humanity

Nearly all descriptions of the quality of the customer experience have two basic components to them.

  • The first requirement for providing a good customer experience is to eliminate problems and obstacles, making it as easy and painless as possible for the customer to meet her need or solve her problem.
  • The second requirement is to please the customer – to delight them with something enjoyable, or surprise them with something unexpected.

There is a priority to these two customer experience tasks however. Don’t even bother trying to accomplish the second task (providing enjoyment), if you haven’t fully accomplished the first task (eliminating friction).

Forrester’s Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine suggest a “Customer Experience Pyramid” in their recent book Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business:

Although Manning and Bodine’s pyramid involves three levels, it’s easy to simplify their argument to the two basic components I described above, because meeting the customer’s basic need and making it easy are both about removing friction. Only after you do these things, Manning and Bodine say, can you benefit substantially by making the experience enjoyable.

Assuming you first eliminate the friction, however, “enjoyment” is not just some attribute or function in the customer experience. Enjoyment is a human feeling. An emotion. A sense of pleasure. And while it may be linguistically correct to say that a customer can “enjoy” a perfectly functioning product or service (i.e., a customer experience that is frictionless), this isn’t really what we’re talking about.

An enjoyable – or delightful – customer experience involves pleasure, not just satisfaction.

And where does pleasure come from? It comes from some kind of emotional connection within the experience itself. It comes from your humanity, as a business.

You can convey humanity to a customer in a number of different ways – as many different ways, in fact, as there are emotions and feelings in the human mind. But here are a few ways to think about it:

  • A customer could easily enjoy an experience when you make it entertaining in some way. For some companies, the value proposition itself is based on some aspect of entertainment – at an amusement park or club, a fine restaurant, or luxury hotel, for instance. But even commodity products can enliven and “humanize” their customer experience by injecting some entertainment value in it, perhaps with a hilariously tongue-in-cheek confirmation email message, such as the one my brother received from Miracle Noodle.
  • A simple thank-you note or hand written communication can also make a human connection, provided that it’s personalized and relevant to the customer, and not just something written the same way to every customer. When you check in to a hotel these days, it isn’t unusual for there to be a hand-written note in your room from the hotel manager, hoping you have a nice stay. However, while it’s certainly a valiant effort to make a connection with a customer, in most cases these notes are not personalized at all, beyond the name of the guest, perhaps. How much more delightful would it be for me to find a note from the manager that said “on your last visit, you bought some Diet Cokes at our retail counter, so I took the liberty of putting a couple of Diet Cokes in your fridge, with our compliments.” Now that would be delightful.
  • You can provide enjoyment in a customer experience by doing something good for the customer that was unexpected, also – that is, by providing a pleasant surprise. Because genuine surprises aren’t generated by automation, they show that your business has humanity – that it’s more than a smoothly functioning set of processes. As Bill Price and David Jaffe say in their bookYour Customer Rules!, “What makes surprises so alluring isn’t necessarily their content or grandiosity. Even a small kindness, when it’s unexpected and freely offered, can change the course of a customer’s day. Somehow the unexpected aspect, the surprise, is much more important than the thing itself. Being taken unaware changes the emotional response. The customer is suddenly aware that there are real people on the other side of the transaction, thinking about how to make the day just a little bit better.”

Never overlook the human element in a customer experience.

Por Don Peppers – Author, Speaker, Founding Partner at Peppers & Rogers Group, part of TeleTech